Pitching his first full season of professional baseball, Red Patterson found that he started to lose focus in middle of the summer. That's when he started polling everyone close to him about what he could do.
"My pitching coaches, my parents, I picked everyone's brain on how to get my focus back," Patterson said.
The Dodgers prospect developed a unique program with his strength coach as a result, and it paid off Thursday. Patterson tossed the first shutout of his career, allowing just four hits over nine innings as Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga defeated Bakersfield, 2-0.
"I think one of my main points was being able to hit my spots effectively, not only with the fastball but also the breaking ball," said Patterson, who was selected in the 29th round of the 2010 Draft. "When I did get into jams or got a runner on, I was able to locate down in zone. That got me ground balls, double plays. It worked out well."
After retiring the first six batters he faced, the 24-year-old right-hander found himself in a bit of trouble in the third. Carlos Mendez led off the inning with a double, then Patterson was called for a balk, putting Mendez on third without any outs.
Devin Lohman reached on a missed catch error by first baseman Angelo Songco, but Patterson was able to pick him off moments later. Patterson knew Lohman was aggressive -- they had faced each other in the Midwest League earlier this year -- so he used that against the speedy shortstop.
"I threw over there twice, made him get down in the dirt," Patterson said. "I knew they would be aggressive, so I went ahead and made the third-to-first move and caught him off-guard. He started running, I got the ball to Songco at first, they took care of the rundown and helped me out with that first out."
Patterson struck out Jordan Wideman for the second out, then induced a flyout off the bat of Andrew Means to end the inning. The Texas native had little trouble after that point, allowing only four baserunners across the final six frames.
Over his past three starts, Patterson has allowed just three runs in 23 innings (1.17 ERA). In his three starts before that, he had surrendered 14 runs in 15 1/3 frames (8.22). He credits the difference in results to his change in preparation.
"My strength coach [Eric Wood] and I came up with a plan on running harder, extending the running a little bit and in the weight room, in between sets, putting the timer on it," Patterson said. "I was really exhausting my body each day at a certain exercise with running or lifting.
"I continued that into games and really started focusing one pitch at a time, one inning at at time, working hard at the mound. It was more of a relaxed thing. Let your guard down, and as soon as that next inning starts, time to start again. Focusing on each spring, each pole, and to the mound, on each pitch. When I started shortening my focus to one thing at a time, rather than the entire picture, things started going well for me."
Over the entire year, Patterson (6-1) has posted a combined 3.38 ERA across two levels, including a 3.33 mark in the hitter-friendly California League. Looking back on it, he said he has learned a lot in his first full season of pro ball.
"It's a lot harder than you think," he said. "Coming into the season, I thought I was in pretty good shape. But in August, it was almost like a mental wall that hit. Your body's starting to get tired a little bit, and mentally your mind starts to wander. The biggest thing I take out of it is working harder -- not only physically but mentally -- to stay focused and finish the season strong."